Last March, Hofstra baseball coach John Russo and the Pride were in the beginning stages of trying to cope with the absences of then-juniors Matt Ford and Dalton Rouleau from the middle infield and top of the lineup.
Ford, the 2012 Colonial Athletic Association’s Defensive Player of the Year and a First Team All-CAA selection at second base, had surgery to repair a torn ACL suffered the previous fall. Rouleau, a First Team All-CAA shortstop, joined Ford on the bench after tearing a quad muscle in last year’s opener.
Still, the Pride managed a 26-27 record in 2013 and came within an out of gaining a spot in the CAA playoffs.
Fast forward to this March, and Russo couldn’t be more excited about having the Ford-Rouleau tandem return along with 16 others as Hofstra looks to make a splash in the CAA as it did two years ago.
“Matt and Dalton steer the ship,” Russo said. “In 2012, we ranked fourth in the country in turning double plays. That was a huge thing we missed last year along with their offense.
“They’re great leaders and bring tremendous work ethic,” he added.
Ford batted .384 and knocked in 48 runs in 2012, while Rouleau hit .328 with five homers, 31 RBIs and 26 stolen bases. They’re among “some pretty good sticks in the lineup,” Russo said. “We’re a gap-hitting team.”
Senior left fielder Kenny Jackson, a four-year starter who played in all 53 games a year ago, cracked a team-leading nine homers, scored a team-best 46 runs, and had 36 RBIs, is another key piece to the puzzle, Russo explained. “We call Kenny ‘The Big Steady,’” the coach said. “He’s solid defensively, runs the bases well and is a career .300 hitter. We know what he’s going to give us every game.” Jackson slammed a pair of homers in a 5-0 win at Penn State on March 1.
Senior Rob Cafiero logged at least three starts at four different positions in 2013 and is taking over full-time catching duties this spring. He batted .270. “Pitchers love throwing to him,” Russo said. “He’s one of our team leaders and has good catch-and-throw skills.”